cover image Rebellion’s Message: A Jack Blackjack Mystery

Rebellion’s Message: A Jack Blackjack Mystery

Michael Jecks. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-78029-085-0

The year may be 1554, but a distinctly Dickensian atmosphere rules in this energetic series launch from Jecks (Templar’s Acre). London’s vast underworld teems with pickpockets, gamblers, prostitutes, and pimps. Real-life Tudor figures, such as Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, make occasional appearances. Jack Blackjack, Jecks’s winning if disreputable lead, is drawn to London because he doesn’t want to make leather jacks and buckets in Whitstable like his father or go into the army and end up “lying with my belly slashed open on a field of gore.” Jack takes to a life of crime, but he’s in over his head after a pickpocket scheme gone bad makes him the chief suspect in a tavern murder, and it’s revealed that the dead man was carrying a message critical to the conspirators in the Wyatt Rebellion, which opposed Queen Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain. A master of caustic tone and well-observed detail, Jecks keeps the suspense at a steady boil as his well-rounded characters fight for a corner in tumultuous London with humor and even humanity. (Aug.)